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'In India, Kareena's shoes are breaking news'

July 01, 2008 10:46 IST
Union Health Minister Dr Anbumani Ramadoss on Monday slammed Bollywood and PepsiCo -- the former for celebrating smoking in its movies and the latter for promoting junk food and drink in India.
Ramadoss, who was the keynote speaker at the 26th annual convention of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin in Las Vegas, said, "In the 1950s, the incident of smoking in movies was only about 30 percent. In 2004, it rose to 89 percent of Indian movies having smoking scenes."
"In 1950s, only the villains were smoking. In 2004, 76 percent of the movies had heroes smoking. So, this was again a huge cause for our young children to take up smoking and I have been fighting against them --- movies and all sorts of activities -- but, as you know, the industry is very strong and I have to go through a lot of flak on this as well."
Ramadoss didn't spare the media, saying, "The media in India is sensationalised and Kareena Kapoor wearing brown shoes is breaking news in India."
"Alcohol is another problem we are facing," he said, and noted, "India has got demographically the youngest youth population in the world -- 600 million youth below the age of 30 -- and it is such a huge asset for us. So, we need to protect them to make India productive and make India a more developed country and that's precisely what we are trying to do -- trying to have policies against alcohol."
Ramadoss said another burgeoning problem in India was junk food, and asked, "How many of you know that a can of Pepsi has seven teaspoons of sugar?
Not many. When you drink coffee, you say, I am happy with half-a-teaspoon of sugar, but then you don't think twice when you drink a can of Pepsi. We are drinking seven teaspoons of sugar and eating a packet of chips full of calories."
"So, we are trying to send a message to our young schoolgoing children out there and we are trying to remove all this junk food of these Pepsis, or Cokes, or chips and pizzas from schools, from educational institutions."
Earlier, he lamented that India is "going through a very bad patch on tobacco. All these tobacco companies are setting shop in India, Indonesia and China. We lose over a million people every year to the tobacco curse."
"I am so passionate about tobacco," he said, and recalled, "In fact, before becoming a minister, I was involved with a NGO which worked against tobacco. I am so passionate that India should be free of tobacco, which is my goal, and we have enacted an act -- Tobacco Control Act -- and all that is happening."
Ramadoss said, "We are also bring in pictorial warnings -- cigarette packs will have gory pictures of cancer patients and all that and within six months, all tobacco products will have these warnings and we are also trying to increase the fines for tobacco usage."
Unveiling his plans for Gandhi Jayanti, the minister said, "On the birthday of Mahatmaji, nobody in India will be allowed to smoke in any building -- public or private. If they want to smoke, they have to go to the road and smoke or you can smoke in your house if the wife allows you."
Aziz Haniffa in Las Vegas